Counterfeit Detection: 1904 Double Eagle

Posted by Max Spiegel, NGC on 11/12/2013

This counterfeit 1904 Double Eagle specimen exhibits relatively sharp design details, and its composition is virtually identical to that of a legitimate specimen.

United States gold coins have been extensively counterfeited for decades and fakes are known for virtually all dates, even the most common ones. Many of these spurious gold pieces were not originally intended to fool collectors; rather, they were created to satisfy the intense demand for gold coins from Middle Eastern merchants in the 1960s and 1970s. These counterfeits typically had a high gold content and many were imported to the United States where they were eventually purchased by unsuspecting collectors.

When old time collections are sold, these fakes will often reenter the marketplace. One of these older counterfeits, a 1904 Double Eagle, was submitted to NGC for authentication. It is not difficult to see why this fake and others like can fool buyers. As with many US gold coin counterfeits of the 1960s and 1970s, this specimen exhibits relatively sharp design details and its composition is virtually identical to that of a legitimate specimen.

Counterfeit 1904 Double Eagle
Click images to enlarge.

Nonetheless, there are several problems that help identify it as a counterfeit. The fields, particularly in the periphery, appear altered and dull. There are also a number of raised lines and tiny lumps near the denticles and through the letters in the legends. For example, a raised line bisects the Y in TWENTY on the reverse and a small lump is seen immediately to the left of the D in DOLLARS. More minuscule lumps can be found in Liberty’s coronet between the letters of LIBERTY.

Click image to enlarge.

These counterfeit US gold coins have been commonplace for several decades although their numbers began to dwindle in the late 1980s with establishment of third-party grading services. For collectors unfamiliar with these older fakes, they can sometimes be quite deceptive. There are many diagnostics, however, especially the raised lines and lumps, that are common to a lot of these illegitimate pieces and familiarity with these issues will make detection significantly easier.